A phone beeps. Someone's vaping in the bathroom again.
Detectors scan Plainedge High School's most popular girls' and boys' bathroom for chemical changes in the air that signal someone's vaping. When it senses a change, it alerts administrators. The Massapequa, New York district decided to install the detectors to help control a surge in students using e-cigarettes.
Schools across the country find themselves similarly searching for solutions. With flavors like creme brulee and mango, one brand in particular, Juul, has become a phenomenon among high school and middle school students. They decorate them with colorful cases and post the pictures of themselves "Juuling" on social media platforms like Instagram — despite a federal ban on sales to minors.
Over the past year, Juul has rapidly overtaken the U.S. e-cigarette market. Sales have skyrocketed nearly 800 percent, helping Juul capture a 71 percent of share of the market, according to Nielsen. Juul's rise has attracted venture funds and given it a stunning $15 billion valuation — but it's also drawn scrutiny from parents, teachers lawmakers and regulators.
Juul now finds itself at the center of what's becoming arguably the most contentious battle over nicotine use in decades. The company has tried to convince critics it wants to help adults switch from smoking conventional cigarettes, not hook kids. So far, criticism hasn't quieted.
If anything, it's only gotten louder. And that may pose a problem for Juul.